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Modi launches ‘Clean India’, says it’s patriotism not politics

Explaining that keeping India clean was beyond politics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi coopted a brace of celebrities including at least one active member of the Congress to take the Swachh Bharat campaign forward.

The PM himself launched the programme amid tight security at Raj Path (where there was no discernible rubbish) by taking a broom and sweeping the road. He then went to a Valmiki Basti on Delhi’s Mandir Marg and made an unscheduled stop at a police station nearby where he used the broom to sweep the station clean and told policemen it was their duty to keep the premises tidy and clean at all times. 

The PM announced initiating a chain by inviting nine eminent personalities including cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, industrialist Anil Ambani, actress Priyanka Chopra, actor Salman Khan and Kamal Hassan and others to spread awareness on cleanliness. Tendulkar, also  a Rajya Sabha MP, was in the news recently for not having had the time to attend the sittings of the Rajya Sabha mandatory for an MP. 

Interesting omissions from the list of campaigners were Amitabh Bachhan and Lata Mangeshkar  -both avowed admirers of the PM.

An idea derived from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, he asked the celebrities to nominate nine more people to join the campaign and hoped that the chain would continue.

Others who are part of the campaign are Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, yoga guru Ramdev and the team of TV serial “Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma”.

Modi also administered a plege to thousands of people, including schoolschildren and government employees at Rajpath to remain committed to cleanliness to make the country clean.

“I will remain committed towards cleanliness and devote time for this…I will neither litter nor let others litter,” pledged all those present at a function to mark the launch of “Swachh Bharat” (Clean India) mission at India Gate by the Prime Minister.

Actor Aamir Khan also joined the PM in taking the pledge along with Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu and offered to become a brand ambassador for the Clean India campaign. Anil Ambani said he was honoured to be part of the campaign.

“I have invited nine people and asked them to come to public places and work towards a Clean India. I ask them to invite nine more people too…I am sure these nine people will do the work and each will invite nine more people to form a chain and clean the country,” Modi said.

The original ice bucket challenge where such a chain was created online was designed to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and motor neurone disease, which is a global viral phenomenon

Modi also announced starting a campaign on cleanliness through social media using his website MyGov.in and other such websites, including a new one dedicated to the clean India campaign. All the people he has chosen for his team are those who have huge following on the social media.

The PM later joined the children in the Walkathon after flagging it off at Rajpath. The Walkathon is part of steps for creating awareness on cleanliness.

Administering the pledge to countrymen on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi today, Modi highlighted the Father of the Nation’s thrust on cleanliness and said the country must realise his unfulfilled dream of a clean India on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019.

“Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of an India which was not only free but also clean and developed. Mahatma Gandhi secured freedom for Mother India. Now, it is our duty to serve Mother India by keeping the country neat and clean,” said the first lines of the pledge.

The pledge further takes the promise from every individual to remain committed to cleanliness and devote time for this.

“I will devote 100 hours per year — that is two hours per week — to voluntary work for cleanliness. I will neither litter nor let others litter.

“I will initiate the quest for cleanliness with myself, my family, my locality, my village and my work place. I believe that the countries of the world that appear clean are so because their citizens don’t indulge in littering nor do they allow it to happen. With this firm belief, I will propagate the message of Swachh Bharat Mission in villages and towns,” reads the pledge.

It also exhorts all to encourage 100 other persons to take this pledge and endeavour to make them devote their 100 hours for cleanliness.

Similarity with campaign in Singapore

The PM’s campaign is strong reminiscent of a similar campaign for cleanliness launched by Singapore in 1968. Started by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the Keep Singapore Clean Campaign was one of the first campaigns launched by the government. The objective was to make Singapore the cleanest city in the region, in order to boost tourism and the attraction of foreign investment. 

The Keep Singapore Clean Campaign had a positive impact throughout the years, tackling many issues such as mosquitoes, pollution, inconsiderate littering, street hawkers and sanitation. Posters and banners were displayed, while seminars and spot checks were carried out. Competitions such as the cleanest offices, toilets, buses and taxis were organised. On the other hand, the dirties places were also named in the media so as to apply social pressure to their owners.

A decade-long campaign was also launched between 1977 and 1987 to clean up the Singapore River and the Kallang Basin. By the mid-eighties, most garbage in the waters was removed. The river was clean enough that a mass swim was organised in 1984.

From Broom to Groom

When the campaign was successful, the government began to address other cultural challenges. In 1970, the government began to strongly “discourage” male Singaporeans with long hair. Students were forced to go for haircuts, while immigration officers began to turn away visitors with long hairs and confiscate the passports of affected Singaporeans if they were going aboard.

The definition of “long hair” was finally determined in 1972, and became a government policy officially. Male civil servants who refused to cut their hairs short were sacked. Public who visited various government bodies were attended last in queues if they sported long hair.

Groups of long-haired men were rounded up by police. Japanese musician Kitaro and British rock band Led Zeppelin were not permitted to perform in Singapore. Bee Gees, however, were allowed to hold a  concert at the National Theatre in 1972, but were made to leave the country immediately after that.


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